Thursday, May 5, 2011

National Wildflower Week

This week, May 2-8 is National Wildflower Week. As I was thinking about how I could work that into a blog post, I started wondering if the native flowering plants in my prairie garden are still considered wildflowers. Are wildflowers still wildflowers if I buy them at a garden center or a native plant sale? Are they still considered wildflowers when I purposely planted them in my garden? Have I domesticated or tamed the wildflowers when I plant them where I want them to grow and remove them when they try to grow where they want to grow?

OK, I am over-analyzing. Here is a look at some of the wildflowers blooming in my prairie garden this week. 

The yellow flowers of four nerve daisies, Tetraneuris scaposa, are prominent in the front yard prairie. Winecups,  Callirhoe involucrata, add a magenta accent. In the background are the coral flowers of red yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, purple flowers of mealycup sage, Salvia farinacea, and the purple-tinged flowers of the Husker Red variety of Penstemon digitalis.

In the background is mealycup sage. I planted purple mealycup sage, but several white flowered plants are beginning to appear on the prairie. In the foreground are more four nerve daisies, chocolate daisies, Berlandiera lyrata, winecup, and black sampson coneflowers, Echinacea angustifolia.

This is a close up of a black sampson coneflower. This plant is also known as narrow leaf coneflower.

The flowers of Mexican hat, Ratibida columnaris, are highly variable from plant to plant. This is the more common red and yellow combination.

This is a less common solid yellow variation.

The flowers of Missouri evening primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa, open in the evening and close the following day. 

Gregg's mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, just started blooming. This is a great butterfly nectar plant, especially for monarch and queen butterflies.

Around in the backyard prairie, more red yucca, mealycup sage, bee brush, Aloysia gratissima, cutleaf daisy, Engelmannia peristenia, prairie verbena, Glandularia bipinnatifida, and zexmenia, Wedelia hispida are blooming.

Celebrate National Wildflower Week by planting some wildflowers that are native to your region. They are colorful, easy to grow, conserve water, and are essential to the survival of several species of native bees and butterflies. 


  1. You could call your wildflowers "nurtured" and "directed".

  2. What gorgeous blooms! I'll have to investigate that how the flower stalks rise so far above the foliage...very elegant. I used to not be that impressed with Callirhoe, but I've been seeing it more and more and have started to come around...and I have a weakness for plants that wander about :-) I remember collecting seeds from the Ratiba that grew wild in our driveway when I was growing up (in Nebraska), it was always fun to see what you'd get the next year with so much natural variation.

  3. Oh Wow, that is the most fantastic garden which I have yet seen !!!

  4. Those are some good ideas, Collagemama. I guess I will stick with “wildflowers” because they do grow with minimal care and they do like to assert their wildness by growing in my pathways.

    Scott, I like the Callirhoe (winecup) because it spreads out to cover open spots early in the season. It starts to die back to a rosette when it gets hot and dry. By then, little bluestem and other perennials have filled in those open spaces. It only spreads by seed and does not root along the stems. Give in to your weakness and try one!

    Thanks Sandra.

  5. I have been reading your blog off and on for a few months now. My wife and I have been living in our new home for just over a year now and have not been happy with the generic landscape since we moved in. I really enjoyed going back to your early posts and seeing how you started out as that is the stage I am at now.

    Do you have the same clay soils in Plano that we have in Irving? I am brand new to this type of gardening and have been worried about plants that say they need good drainage. Although I don't have standing water, my clay soils are very compacted and I have read they are not very good at drainage.

    Also, I do have a couple of large bushes in my yard but have no idea what they are. However when they are in bloom, they are covered in bees. I like the idea of bringing in wildlife so I hate to remove something bees like. Could you recommend a resource for a novice on how to identify different shrubs?

    Thanks for your time posting. I wish I had your imagination for planting. I hope in a few years my yard is 1/2 as nice as yours.


  6. Tim, thanks for the comments. Irving has several different soil types. Sandy in some areas and clay in others. My soil is black clay (part of the Blackland Prairie) with patches of some sort of sandy loam that somebody added in the last 40 years. I would actually prefer if it was all the native soil. People give clay soils a bad name, but they are actually great soils. Why else would most of this area have been farm land at one time?

    You can improve the soil in a lawn by aerating the soil. You can rent soil aerators or pay someone to perform the work. The aerator pulls plugs of soil out which allows air to get into the soil. After you aerate, spread compost and lava sand on the lawn and it will work its way into the holes. You can spread the plugs with a rake. Using organic fertilizer to help improve the soil too. Feed the soil and the soil will feed the plants.

    If you are making flowerbeds, remove the grass and use a turning fork to mix in compost, expanded shale, and lava sand to loosen the soil and improve drainage. You should be able to grow all of the plants I grow, unless water stands on your soil after a rain. If that is the case, you may need to improve the grade too.

    Your large bushes are probably a very common plant. If you take a small branch and flowers (if blooming) to a nursery, they can probably tell you what you have. You may not get a good answer at Lowes or Home Depot.

    Howard Garrett and Neil Sperry have plant ID books for this area. You can find them in public libraries and at Half Price Books if you want a cheap copy. For native plant information, look for Native Texas Plants by Sally Wasowski. It is a great book with pictures, descriptions and growing requirements for 400 native plants.

    For some inspiration, you might want to hit a few locations on the Waterwise Landscape Tour this weekend. There is a demonstration garden in Irving and a private garden in Coppell that should be close to you. Go to for more info.

    Start small and get a feel for what you want before you do something crazy and remove all of your lawn like I did. Enlarging your flowerbeds and adding native plants, but keeping some lawn may be the way to go for you. Good luck.


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